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The Consequeces of Health Care Reform

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Americans are clamoring for health care reform. Driving the demand for reform is the belief that health care is too expensive and is costing the taxpayer too much money. The cost to the taxpayer is attributed to the estimated 40-million uninsured people in the country. Economic issues, as opposed to ethical and moral issues, fuel the debate between liberals and conservatives on the issue.

Progressives in particular, are pushing hard and heavy for a "single-payer option" which would essentially make private insurance companies redundant in the relative near future. They argue that private insurance companies are making too much money and not living up to their duties to provide coverage for their customers. In making the arguments, they trot out what they consider to be egregious examples of abuse of insured people --of people being denied treatments recommended by their physicians.

Conservatives argue against the single-payer system under the belief that the government is incapable of effectively and efficiently providing responsible medical care to the public. They also object to the fact that the middle class and above will end up footing the majority of the health care reform bills. To that argument, the Progressives argue that the savings will more than offset the costs. Both sides use comprehensive, confusing statistics and figures to attempt to make their points.

Missing from the arguments is one important thing: A definition of what constitutes health care. In short, everyone is discussing health care and there is not a clearly defined and accepted definition of what constitutes "health care" anyplace on the table.

The Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary defines health care as:

The maintaining and restoration of health by the treatment and prevention of disease especially by trained and licensed professionals (as in medicine, dentistry, clinical psychology, and public health)

Equally as ambiguous, the Medical Dictionary of the Free Dictionary defines health care as:

The prevention, treatment, and management of illness and the preservation of mental and physical well-being through the services offered by the medical and allied health professions.

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Interpreting these two definitions would largely depend on how certain words in the definition could be interpreted. For example, "restoration of health" could be interpreted to mean that if health could not be restored, then treatments should cease. The term "management of illness" could also be interpreted to have a similar meaning.

It is doubtful that Americans are prepared to accept either interpretation. Americans have developed a fear of death over the lastfour decades or so. In the 50's and 60's for example, when a person died from any cause whatsoever, the prevailing view was that "God had called the person home to heaven as that person had fulfilled His mission on earth." In the 70's, the consensus changed when lawyers introduced the concept of "wrongful death" in civil suits seeking millions of dollars for the survivors of the deceased.

Conservatives created an outcry in the debate when they claimed that a government-run health care program would establish "death panels" with strangers deciding when grandma would die. Of course, the conservatives have long believed that only God should decide when someone dies, except in the case of implementing the death penalty when servicemen fight for their country. Interestingly enough, the liberals denied that death panels would result, and implied that everyone would be afforded every opportunity to extend their lives as long as is medically or humanly possible.

This claim by the liberals however is not entirely consistent with their support for letting Terry Schiavo die. Schiavo was in a persistent vegetative state, something which the conservatives denied, largely in the absence of any credible medical evidence. Liberals supported removing her feeding tube. It also should be noted, at least in passing, that many cases that have been trotted out by liberals as examples of people who have been wrongly denied insurance coverage for treatments were in fact people who had terminal diseases for which no cure existed or exists.

Defining Health Care

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No doubt, an essential element of health care is preventive medicine. Whether preventive medicine works or not is open to debate. It is estimated that between 70-80 percent of the American public has some form of health insurance today, which means they do have access to primary care physicians who presumably are pushing the concept of preventive medicine.

Despite this, Americans are known worldwide for being the most obese people in the developed world as well asthe world's largest consumers of illegal drugs. They are also the world's largest consumers of prescription drugs. Because of the lifestyle -- a voluntary lifestyle which Americans maintain -- they also have the largest incidence of heart and kidney diseases in the world.

These factors can go a long way toward explaining why the American health care system receives such low global grades: Americans really do not care about preserving their health. All they want are treatments that will enable them to continue their decadent and harmful lifestyles. Hence, the arguments surrounding "preventive health care" as being a benefit of a national health care program can largely be ignored.

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Doc is semi-retired, currently living, working and investing in China. Background in medicine (trauma), business and education. Neither a progressive or a conservative; more of a centrist/libertarian who is a strong proponent of personal (more...)

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